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Is Your Sales Team Lying To You?

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During monthly forecasting meetings, CEOs often gather around the CRM dashboard and stare at the list of pending deals. They evaluate the likelihood of deals closing before the month’s end and listen to the sales leaders navigate through their rationale as to why they think the sales numbers will be met or missed. Attending monthly forecasting meetings is an exciting and anxious time for most CEOs. In many situations, sales numbers are an objective scoreboard of an organization’s operating effectiveness.

Unless the CEO comes from an extensive “systems sales” background, he or she typically heavily depends on the truth communicated by the company’s sales leaders. There are multiple articles and blogs educating CEOs on the best questions to ask sales managers in order to understand the sales process and monitor the outcomes.

The problem is that all of those methods only enable the CEO to challenge the sales leadership team to think strategically — they don’t apply a consistent measuring stick to know if they are running their sales organizations in the most efficient manner. They don’t arm the CEO with conviction:

• Are your salespeople wasting time on unqualified prospects? Are they selling to those who will never buy or cannot buy?

• Are you losing margin because your discounts are too heavy?

• Why is the forecast frequently inaccurate?

• How can you measure a positive impact on deal size, deal volume, win rates and time to close?

So, how can the CEO really know the truth? The objective should be to establish a common sales methodology that will address all aspects of system selling: a prospect’s role and ability to buy, a difference for the prospect to buy a product or a service without commoditizing it on price, assurance that all buyers’ needs have been met, who in the organization has a clear power to make the decision to buy, and whether there is a clear plan of action.

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If executed properly, the sales leadership will:

• Be able to sell effectively at all levels

• Develop skills to motivate prospects to act faster

• Enable prospects to see the value of a company’s solutions in resolving their business issues

• Be able to qualify prospects and forecast effectively

The best methodology I’ve implemented throughout my career was developed by experts in selling value and following the fundamental principles of selling, regardless of the technological advances we all apply.

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Reasons To Change

Prospects must see enough value in a service to motivate them to want to become a client. This reason must satisfy the emotional driving force that causes them to act.

This driving force is either away from problems or toward a goal. The value is the priceless ingredient or an emotional driving force that would motivate someone to become a client and it is unique to each of us. Examples of that priceless ingredient are peace of mind, a conviction that you are making the right decision, reaching a goal that is otherwise unattainable or simply eliminating a nagging problem.

It is also important to note that buyers are motivated for their own reasons and not by the seller’s. Once a need is satisfied, it is no longer a motivator, so a sense of urgency is paramount.

Why is buying an emotional decision? People buy what they believe a product or service will do for them. The buyer must perceive a personal win that satisfies his or her emotional driving force (“what’s in it for me?”). People also do not buy our products, services or ideas — they buy how they imagine using them will make them feel.

People buy from people. The development of a selling relationship requires the creation and maintenance of a rapport between a buyer and seller. We trust people who appear to have the same image of the world as we do (they match our paradigm). We also trust people who understand our problems.

The product is in the mind of the buyer. Sellers and marketers must create a vision match between their product and the capabilities it would take to solve the buyer’s problems. This represents the buyer’s paradigm and must include a vision of what the world would be like after they acquire the product or service.

People make emotional buying decisions for logical reasons. Value is the emotional driving force. People first get excited about satisfying the reasons, or value, that motivates them to change. Then they develop a rationale to explain or justify it to their boss, peers or friends. Keep in mind that the logical basis most frequently used to justify the emotional buying decision to invest in technology is dollar savings.

The correct use of power is key. A seller must establish and maintain a rapport at the power level. The product’s capabilities must create a vision match with the prospect’s power person.

You can’t sell to someone who can’t buy. The formula below illustrates the correlation of all principles of selling. Without assuring that all components are satisfied, the sales team may be playing a game of roulette:

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Qualified Prospect = Vision Match + Value + Power + Plan

Correctly identifying and developing a qualified prospect (QP) requires creating a rapport and establishing a vision match (VM) with a power person (P) and showing the value (V) of the vision match is achievable (how product capabilities enable them to either eliminate a nagging problem or to reach a desired goal). Ultimately, the prospect must agree to a mutual plan (P) to prove the proposed solution can satisfy the reasons that will motivate the prospect to become a client.

Most experienced and trained sales organizations will instinctively recognize and understand these selling principles. The challenge arises in consistently applying them to all sales situations. An argument could be made that if a sales forecast ends in a miss, one or more principles were avoided and shortcuts were taken, relying on the good old Irish clover of luck.

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